The Law Blog on WSJ.com posted a story on Mark Pettit at the Boston University School of Law: The Minstrel of BU Law School. I am a big fan of Professor Pettit. His contracts class was my first class in law school.
I was nervous about the Socratic method and what I had gotten myself into. Contracts was the first class on the first day of law school. The first case was Hawkins v. McGee. Professor Pettit was quizzing my classmate about what went wrong with the plaintiff that they ended up in court and suing their doctor. My classmate was stumbling. Professor Pettit reached into his desk and pulled out a plastic hand with a piece of thick fur attached:
“Dr. McGee promised Mr. Hawkins that he would make the hand a hundred percent perfect hand using skin grafting. But instead Mr. Hawkins ended up with a hairy hand that looked like this.”
The prop was a great icebreaker for a classroom full of nervous students. With the sometimes (oftentimes) boring caselaw study of contracts, his songs always livened up class and got us to focus on the substance of the case.
The lesson for knowledge management is the power of being able to wrap more information around the subject, giving it more meaning for the viewer. Professor Pettit’s songs and props were all metadata we could wrap around the caselaw in helping us to understand it and put it into context.